In the wake of the ongoing Supreme Court Battle between Sierra Leone’s main opposition party, the SLPP and one of its members, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi, pundits have expressed grave concerns over the fate of the country’s multi-party democracy, as it is widely believed that this matter has the propensity to destabilize the country’s main opposition party if not handled with wisdom, responsible pragmatism and maturity.
First of all, it should be stated that the Supreme Court Battle has only now begun rather than the mistaken belief that Bu-Buakei Jabbi has “100%” won the case he took to court. Bubuakei’s case has not even started being looked into yet. The battle has just started and SLPP should know this!
Meanwhile, some are calling for the Defence of the Court case to be abandoned and immediate fresh elections to be held nation-wide for various executive positions. We, here at Awareness Times, sense a major irreparable disaster for the SLPP should this line of thinking hold sway. Not only will it expose the party to the danger of conceding that it has been structurally organised in an illegitimate manner since 1997 but it will mean Clause 1 of the SLPP Constitution will be at stake; i.e: the very existence of a political entity known as the SLPP within Sierra Leone will now be at stake.
Furthermore, with a total of 19 party members contending for the position of SLPP Presidential Flagbearer and each of them brimming with confidence that he or she will emerge the winner, the potential for a disastrous disunity to come out of any attempt to elect new delegates cannot be over-emphasised! Whilst the candidates themselves might stay aloof of such elections, their supporters and strategists certainly will NOT. Each of the 19 aspirants’ camps will be trying to influence the various elections so their sympathisers can emerge as delegates.
Like all political parties in Sierra Leone, most intra-party elections tend to leave the affected party split with losers feeling disillusioned and winners finding it difficult to lead a fragmented party. In January 2009, the Kenema District Executive Elections for SLPP resulted in the party offices being virtually vandalised. Same also happened for the Western Area Regional Elections of February 2009 that saw uniformed police officers fleeing for their lives and furniture at Bishop Johnson Memorial School affected. At that time, there were only two clear camps. In this particular instance, there are 19 distinct camps with the potential for the party to split into 19 different factions not being impossibility.
Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi in a recent Press Release has raised the stakes even higher by insisting for biennial intra-SLPP elections to be held not only at the levels demarcated by the SLPP Constitution (National, Regional & District) but also at Constituency Levels, Chiefdom Levels and even Ward/Zonal Levels. This means, should the SLPP pay heed to the demands of Bu-Buakei Jabbi, the SLPP should prepare itself to have some 19 different SLPP factions co-existing from the Ward and Chiefdom Levels all the way up the party’s hierarchy ladder. Is that the kind of disunited SLPP party that should enter 2012? 19 factions of ‘bad blood’? The slogan should be then changed from “2012: Sharp 12” to “2012: Sharp Zero!” Fact!
MOVING ON TO ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT ISSUE:
The danger in the SLPP carelessly abandoning the case at the Supreme Court un-challenged by legal representation, can also NOT be over-emphasized. The 7th Relief sought by Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi from the Supreme Court has granted the Five Judges carte blanche to issue out ‘dangerous’ Orders and Directives. An unchallenged Jabbi Motion has left the SLPP in a very vulnerable state at the hands of a Supreme Court that is already accused (with no evidence we must say!) of being biased against the SLPP. Lawyers walking out of the proceedings in mid-stream, in our opinion, is possibly the most inane and thoughtless decision ever taken by a political entity in opposition.
The Awareness Times Team is now using this opportunity to urge the SLPP and all relevant Defendants (John Benjamin, J.J. Saffa and Alex Musa) to swiftly (VERY, VERY SWIFTLY!) file a Strong Defence with accompanying Affidavits against the Originating Motion of Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi. If they fail to file a defence on time, it means they have surrendered themselves to the fatality of the Supreme Court making Orders based on what is in front of the Five eminent Judges. And in such a case, no-one will be able to blame the Supreme Court Judges or the Chief Justice. Awareness Times will even strongly defend any such Supreme Court Orders granted regardless of how outlandish they may be as the Judges will bear no fault for the SLPP Lawyers walking out of the proceedings without a Defence!
There are Rules governing the operations of the Supreme Court and these Rules have timelines by which documents should be filed. We repeat: THERE ARE RULES GOVERNING THE OPERATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT AND THESE RULES HAVE TIMES AND PERIODS FOR ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN. A word to the wise... LONTA!
Meanwhile, let us now take a look at what has happened so far:
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone has suspended the March 5th 2011 convention of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The Supreme Court verdict came following an interlocutory motion filed against the SLPP by one of the party’s flagbearer aspirants in the person of Dr. Bu Buakei Jabbi, who applied for a temporary injunction on the party’s convention for the election of a flagbearer.
The injunction which was granted in the evening hours of Monday 28th February 2011, at precisely 9:15pm, merely marks a chapter in a legal battle on the status of the various executives of the party. It is more of a beginning than an ending. This means the wild rumours making the rounds that the SLPP has lost the whole court case to Dr. Jabbi is nothing to go by as the actual case (originating motion) filed by Bu-Buakei Jabbi on Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2011, is yet to commence. That notwithstanding, the erudite and learned Constitutional Expert, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has already scored two major points against the SLPP – The preliminary objection by the defence team was ruled in favour of Jabbi, and his interlocutory motion was also upheld. He has every reason to be feeling good about his legal prowess right now.
The originating motion filed by the SLPP flagbearer on the 14th February 2011, is questioning the status of various executives of the SLPP. Jabbi is arguing that the two years tenure of offices for the various executives of the party, as provided in the SLPP constitution, has either expired or is on the verge of expiring. Bu-Buakei Jabbi is concerned that the aforementioned executive members, who are going to partake in the flagbearer election as delegates, ‘do not have legitimate status’ to elect the party’s flagbearer, and is therefore seeking regularization of their status prior to the flagbearer contest.
Prior to going to court, Bu Buakei Jabbi raised series of concerns over the aforementioned ‘anomaly’ and the aftermath was the convening of an emergency party conference in Bo on the 29th January 2011 in order to legitimately extend the tenures of office. Extensions of tenures of office is not new within the SLPP. The SLPP Constitution makes clear democratic provisions for doing just that and this has been done repeatedly since the inception of Multi-Party democratic pluralism in 1995.
Prior to the Bo conference, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the SLPP had met in Makeni on the 27th November 2010 in which a decision was reached to extend the mandates of the various executives of the party (including the national executive) until after the 2012 presidential election. This decision was reached pending ratification by the general membership.
At the Bo conference in January 2011, the motion to ratify the Makeni NEC decision for the extension of the tenure of the various executives was unanimously ratified by all the SLPP members present. It is of significance to note that Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi was present at the Bo convention and the smiles on his face whilst the motion was being ratified were conspicuous. Not a single view was made in dissent and the conference which was considered as the make or break point of the SLPP ended peacefully.
At a time when the SLPP thought it had crossed the major bridge, then came the shock for the party when news broke out that a legal suit has been filed against the party by one of its flagbearer aspirants: Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi!
This news was accompanied by allegations that Bu-Buakei Jabbi has received bribe amounting to two hundred million Leones from the ruling APC party to create confusion in the SLPP. The allegation was countered by a response from the Bu-Buakei Jabbi campaign team, which referred to the allegations as absurd.
Few days later, Jabbi filed a fresh second motion to the Supreme Court (interlocutory motion) seeking a temporary ban on the flagbearer convention, on grounds that the issue in his originating motion (which is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court) has direct bearing to the March 5 flagbearer convention.
Following the new motion, the Supreme Court fixed a date for hearing on the interlocutory motion. On the scheduled date of Friday 28th February 2011, hundreds of supporters of the SLPP converged at the Supreme Court and its environs in solidarity with their party. The SLPP lined up a total of ten lawyers in defence, whilst Bu-Buakei Jabbi solely represented himself.
The SLPP Lawyers, headed by Eke Halloway raised a preliminary objection even before Bu-Buakei Jabbi could state his case. The SLPP lawyers argued that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter. Their objection was based on grounds that it is the PPRC that has the authority to regulate political parties in the country and it is only after petitions to PPRC fails that a party should resort to approaching the Supreme Court. Also, the SLPP lawyers challenged that Jabbi has no Locus Standi under the Constitution to take such matters to court. After their submissions, Jabbi asked for a two hour recess to adequately prepare his response to SLPP’s preliminary objection. On his return, Jabbi took his time to eloquently and dramatically debunk the points submitted and at the end of this, the matter which had by then lasted from 10am to 5pm was adjourned to Monday 28th February 2011 for ruling.
On Monday 28 February, the panel of judges headed by the Chief Justice ruled against the SLPP Lawyers, stating that the Supreme Court has the authority to hear the matter and that Jabbi has the right to take such matters to court.
It was after this ruling on Monday that Bu-Buakei Jabbi moved his interlocutory motion for an temporary injunction to be ordered on the SLPP flagbearer election, pending the actual court case.
The SLPP lawyers were unable to adequately defend against the motion moved by Jabbi which subsequently ended in an injunction restraining the party from not only going ahead with the March 5 convention, but to also desist from all activities, including meetings and arrangements for a flagbearer contest.
Immediately after the verdict, lead defence lawyer Eke Halloway stood up to announce that his team was withdrawing its participation from further proceedings on the matter as per the instruction of the defendants.
On his part, Dr. Jabbi thanked the panel of judges for ruling in his favour and swiftly left the court room amid taunting from the SLPP supporters.
The defence lawyers have described the verdict as unbelievably unfair.
This is how the matter has gone so far. The actual proceeding to look into the merits of the originating motion filed by Bu Buakei Jabbi is yet to commence.
Bottom-line, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has taken the SLPP to court. Will the SLPP be naive enough to walk out of the proceedings and leave Jabbi’s briefs unchallenged? How thoughtless! A word to the wise... Lonta!
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.